Inside Washington: Branstad ideal for China ambassador

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad has 30-year-plus relationship with China's President Xi Jinping.

Jacqui Fatka, Policy editor

December 8, 2016

3 Min Read
Inside Washington: Branstad ideal for China ambassador

A U.S. Chamber report showed that agricultural trade between the China and the U.S. grew to $35.6 billion last year, and there are predictions that the nation could see $71.2 billion in trade with China by 2025, if forecasts hold.

So, the need to have an “old friend” in China to ease U.S.-China relations under President-elect Donald Trump couldn’t be needed more. With Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, it seems we’ve got exactly that.


In a statement from his office, Branstad said during his 30-year friendship with China's President Xi Jinping, they have developed a “respect and admiration for each other, our people and our cultures.” He said the U.S.-China bilateral relationship is at a critical point.

“Ensuring the countries with the two largest economies and the two largest militaries in the world maintain a collaborative and cooperative relationship is needed more now than ever,” Branstad added. “The President-elect understands my unique relationship to China and has asked me to serve in a way I had not previously considered.”

The relationship between Branstad and Xi dates back to 1985, when Xi visited Iowa as a Hebei province party official and was the director of the Feed Association of Shi jiazhuang Prefecture. He visited Iowa to study agriculture as a young man (read: Why China’s president loves Iowa). Branstad established Hebei as a sister state with Iowa in 1983.

“I believe that the respect and admiration built over a decades-old friendship between President Xi and I give me an opportunity to help the President-elect and serve Iowa, the United States and the world for the better,” Branstad said.

American Soybean Assn. president Richard Wilkins also offered enthusiastic praise for the nomination.

“As we have said in the weeks that followed the presidential election, it is extremely important to have voices within the incoming administration that understand and value the huge impact that global trade has on U.S. agriculture and, specifically, American soybean producers. Nowhere is that relationship more significant than in China — a market that demands nearly 60% of our soy exports and over 25% of our production overall,” Wilkins said.

He added that Branstad has proved himself as a valuable ally on trade. “He clearly understands the global nature of the agricultural economy and knows what American farmers and Chinese buyers mean to one another,” Wilkins said.

Iowa is the second-largest agricultural exporting state in the nation, and China is a big market for Iowa’s livestock, grains, ethanol and agricultural byproducts. Iowa Farm Bureau Federation president Craig Hill said, "Gov. Branstad has probably been the greatest promoter and a tireless advocate of agriculture as any governor in this nation, and Iowa Farm Bureau members have traveled with the governor to China and seen firsthand the positive reception he gets in China. He is treated with such great respect and authority there, so this appointment is positive for all Iowans.”

During his time as governor, Branstad has led six trade missions to China, meeting with numerous provincial governors and local officials.

About the Author(s)

Jacqui Fatka

Policy editor, Farm Futures

Jacqui Fatka grew up on a diversified livestock and grain farm in southwest Iowa and graduated from Iowa State University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications, with a minor in agriculture education, in 2003. She’s been writing for agricultural audiences ever since. In college, she interned with Wallaces Farmer and cultivated her love of ag policy during an internship with the Iowa Pork Producers Association, working in Sen. Chuck Grassley’s Capitol Hill press office. In 2003, she started full time for Farm Progress companies’ state and regional publications as the e-content editor, and became Farm Futures’ policy editor in 2004. A few years later, she began covering grain and biofuels markets for the weekly newspaper Feedstuffs. As the current policy editor for Farm Progress, she covers the ongoing developments in ag policy, trade, regulations and court rulings. Fatka also serves as the interim executive secretary-treasurer for the North American Agricultural Journalists. She lives on a small acreage in central Ohio with her husband and three children.

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